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Russia’s New Fighter Jet Design Breaks Cover

Photos have appeared on social media showing what appears to be Russia’s much-hyped new medium to light-weight fighter, or at least a mock-up of it, days after the country’s United Aircraft Corporation first teased that a new design was likely to appear imminently. Previous announcements indicated that the rumored fighter, described as “a fundamentally new military aircraft,” was to be officially unveiled at the MAKS international air show that will begin at Zhukovsky International Airport, outside Moscow, next week.

These photos, which purport to show the fighter at Zhukovsky, reveal a full-size airframe wrapped in a black protective covering. This reveals a stealthy-looking overall shape, including what seems to be a prominent chine along the fuselage centerline. The planform of the mid-set wing is not immediately discernable, but the twin tailfins are canted outwards. While rumors of the fighter have suggested it will be a single-engine design, that can’t currently be verified. One of the images also shows a large hangar in the background, covered with banners promoting “The Checkmate,” as the new jet seems to be named.

A set of four images, showing the jet in different positions around the airfield, appeared on the Russian online social networking service VK, earlier today, credited to a photographer with the username V3tritium and carrying today’s date. That same name is also associated with an Instagram account, where another photo was posted, credited to Vlad Vinogradoff/V3tritium. 

One of those photos was then repurposed by Rostec, for use on its Twitter account, with the phrase “Wanna see me naked?” overlaid.

Rumors of a new Russian fighter design from the United Aircraft Corporation — the organization that brings together the country’s major aerospace firms — emerged on July 11, when that company posted a cryptic teaser on its Twitter account.

This included the message (in Russian): “Everything is easier than it seems. #checkmate. Something seems to be on the way,” as well as a famous “UFO” photo doctored to include a Knight figure from a chessboard.

The Knight motif then appeared again on a countdown website, created by Rostec, the Russian state corporation responsible for UAC.

A video was then uploaded to YouTube on July 13, making it now clear that the new design was a fighter and suggesting that it was being pitched at United Arab Emirates, India, Vietnam, and Argentina. Pilots from those countries all appeared in the video, as did the shadow of an aircraft over water, suggesting a probable twin-fin fighter design.

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